Tag Archives: Babe Ruth

“Smashing Circuit Clouts all Over the Island”

22 Apr

Edgar Forrest Wolfe was a cartoonist and feature writer who wrote under the pseudonym Jim Nasium at several Eastern newspapers including The Philadelphia Inquirer from 1907-1922.  In 1920, he told readers about “the Black Babe Ruth.”

Wolfe had seen Cristobal Torriente play against barnstorming major leaguers in Cuba:

“While Boston Babe Ruth is insisting that he will not be thumping home runs next season unless he receives $20,000 a season for the service (Torriente) is smashing circuit swats all over the island for a percentage of the gate receipts and doing it with such consistent regularity that one is led to believe he might be able to take ‘Boston Babe’s’ place.”

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Torriente

Wolfe said against the barnstorming major leaguers including Jeff Pfeffer and Leon Cadore of the Brooklyn Robins and Elmer Ponder and Hal Carlson of the Pittsburgh Pirates:

 “Torriente, ‘The Black Babe Ruth’ pasted the pellet for the healthy batting average of .377 (and) in six games against the All-Americans, batting against Jack Quinn, Bob Geary, and ‘Mule’ Watson, Torriente managed to compile a batting average of .408.”

Torriente, he said:

“(I)s the surest and hardest hitter Cuba has ever produced. He broke up one of the Pittsburgh games with a terrific home run belt off pitcher Carlson that traveled so far into right-centerfield that he had completed the circuit of the bases before outfielder Max Carey had reached the ball.”

When facing Bob Geary in another game, Wolfe said Torriente hit a ball ‘so far into the same pasture,” and:

“(He) loafed coming up the third base line and had crossed the plate on a slow trot before the ball had been returned to the infield.”

Wolfe said the home run gave the Cubans a victory in a game that appeared “hopelessly lost,” and the fans threw money at Torriente who “collected thirty-two dollars from the grass around home plate.”

Wolfe noted that in another game, Torriente homered twice, one to left field, the other to right “with equal force.”

He called Torriente “the perfect picture of a natural hitter,” and gave the final word on his ability to Frank Schulte who while watching the games in Cuba called Torriente “one of the best-looking hitters he had ever seen:”

“He looks natural up there, and he takes the right kind of cut at the ball that doesn’t swing at any bad ones. If they could whitewash that bird he’d help some big league club a lot.”

Connie Mack Calls “Bunk”

19 Apr

In the month leading up to the 1944 season there were concerns about there being a season.

Ty Cobb told an Associated Press (AP) reporter that “the baseball men have a mission to perform” by keeping the game alive during the war, even if “it is played by old men.”

Cobb said:

“If worst comes to worst, I’d get back into the harness myself to help preserve it.”

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Cobb

The thought took hold in some circles.

Nearly fifty-year-old Howard Ehmke, whose business making canvas tarpaulins was now making protective covering for naval warship guns, told The AP:

“I’ll be 50 in April and I’m pretty busy around here, but if baseball needs me, I’ll come running. I won’t say much about my arm, but I ought to be able to do something. The game was good to me when I was in it, and I feel I owe it something.”

The idea was shot down by baseball’s oldest manager.

Connie Mack said the idea was “all bunk.”

He told The Philadelphia Record:

“We don’t need them; we don’t want them; I doubt if any of them wants to come back, and they can’t play anymore anyway. I’d much rather keep the game going with 14 and 15-year-olds.”

Mack said he felt there were enough men classified as 4-F combined with those not yet drafted and those too young to serve to carry on.

And he didn’t spare any of the former greats who suggested they might be willing to come back:

“It’s a joke to talk about such men as Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Eddie Collins, Babe Ruth, Walter Johnson, and Al Simmons making comebacks.

“We appreciate the fine spirit they have shown to help baseball, but they can’t play now. Once a man has passed 35 or 40 and then gives up the game for a year or so, he can’t come back.”

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Mack

Mack said he “pitied” the old-timers he watched play in a war bond game the previous summer.

“Great outfielders like Speaker—one of the finest flycatchers of all time—looked pitiable. I was afraid he would get hit on the head.”

Besides, said Mack, all fans cared about baseball, not the caliber of the game, and kids and 4-F’s could carry the load:

“They don’t look for super-excellence these days.”

“Ruthian and Splendid”

12 Apr

When Babe Ruth went to spring training with the Boston Braves in 1935, that it was wrong for the Yankees and the American League let him go to the National League was a subject of disagreement among two of baseball’s most famous personalities.

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Babe Ruth

Harry Grayson, the longtime sports editor for the Newspaper Enterprise Association, spoke to both in Florida:

“Rogers Hornsby says Babe Ruth was driven out of the American League by self-protecting business managers.

‘”I tried to save Ruth for the league at the minor league meeting in Louisville,’ explains the outspoken Hornsby.”

Hornsby, then manager of the Saint Louis Browns, said he and the Carle McEvoy, the team’s vice president asked American League President Will Harridge to help arrange for Ruth to come to St. Louis as Hornsby’s “assistant.”

Hornsby felt after a year working under him, Ruth would be ready to manage a team in 1936.

“’We could not pay his salary and asked that the league look after part of it, but nothing came of the proposition.”

Hornsby said after his effort failed, he couldn’t “understand why he didn’t and the Yankee job, and why the Red Sox, Indians, and White Sox passed him up.”

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Rogers Hornsby

Hornsby was just getting started:

“Business managers taking care of their own interests sent Ruth the National League, after a score of phenomenal and faithful years of service in the American.”

“The “business managers” he said, would have to take a back seat to Ruth as manager.

“’I suspect that is why Eddie Collins didn’t grab Ruth for the Red Sox, where he would have been the idol he will be with the Braves. Only a man of Tom Yawkey’s millions could have kept pace with Collins’ expenditures, which have failed to put the Red Sox anywhere in particular.’

“’I ask you: Which would have been a better deal—Ruth free gratis, and for nothing, or Joe Cronin for $250,000 [sic, $225,000]”

Hornsby would have probably altered his opinion after Cronin spent the next decade in Boston.

Philadelphia Athletics manager Connie Mack took “an altogether different view,” of the Ruth situation:

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Connie Mack

“’Because Ruth was a great instinctive ballplayer it does not necessarily follow that he would be a good manager,’ elucidates Mack.

‘”Ruth was not forced out of the American League. He could have continued with the Yankees or gone to most any other club and played as often as he cared to.’

“’Ruth wasn’t satisfied with that, however. During the World Series he announced he would not sign another players’ contract. He wanted Joe McCarthy’s position as manager of the Yankees. If he came to Philadelphia, for example, he wanted my job. Well, it just happens that I need my job, and I have an idea McCarthy needs his.’”

Yawkey made no apologies for the money he spent to obtain Cronin, but said:

“I wish Ruth all the luck in the world. I hope the Babe has a tremendous season. He has the people of Boston talking baseball, which will react to the advantage of the Red Sox as well as the Braves. Boston needed someone like Ruth to offset the inroads made by (thoroughbred) racing in New England last year.”

Ruth lasted just until the end of May, hitting just .181 and embroiled in an ongoing disagreement with team owner Emil Fuchs over Ruth’s alleged roles as a club vice president and “assistant manager” to Bill McKechnie.

Ruth was presented with a signed ball by his Braves teammates and presented a parting shot at Fuchs that Paul Gallico of The New York Daily News called, “Ruthian and splendid.”

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Ruth said:

“Judge Fuchs is a double-crosser. His word is no good. He doesn’t keep his promises. I don’t want another damn thing from him—the dirty double-crosser.”

Things I Learned on the Way to Looking up Other Things #30

30 Jan

Reddy’s Last Words

When Tom “Reddy” Miller, the catcher for the 1875 St. Louis Brown Stockings, died in May of 1876 (he was, depending on the source, somewhere between 24 and 26 years old at the time of his death), The St. Louis Globe-Democrat noted his handling of pitcher George Bradley:

“The brilliant manner in which the plucky little fellow supported Bradley last season is a matter of record.”

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Bradley

Apparently, according to The Chicago Tribune, catching Bradley was the last thing Miller thought about before his death:

“In his last moments he was delirious, and fancied he was at his place in the ball-field, facing his old pitcher, Bradley. His last words were ‘Two out, Brad—steady, now—he wants a high ball—steady, brad—there, I knew it; that settles it.’”

Altrock on Alexander, 1928

On June 11, 1928, 41-year-old Grover Cleveland Alexander held the Boston Braves to one run on nine hits in an 8 to 1 complete game victory. Nick Altrock, Washington Senators coach, told The Cleveland News:

“Boston got nine hits off Grover Alexander Monday, but got one run, which is why I claim Alex is the world’s greatest pitcher. He is as easy to hit as a punching bag, but you can’t knock him off the rope. Alex pitches like a busted chewing gum slot machine. You keep dropping your nickels in it but no chewing come comes out.”

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Alexander

Alexander was 16-9 with a 3.36 ERA for the pennant winning St. Louis Cardinals.

Baker’s Homerun Ball, 1911

Frank Baker’s game-tying ninth inning home run off Christy Mathewson in game three of the 1911 World Series quickly became legendary, and people began asking about the whereabouts of the ball.

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Baker

The New York Bureau of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch solved “The great mystery of what became of the ball” three days later:

“In the Brush stadium Tuesday, occupying a seat in the eighth row on the projecting line drawn through home and first, sat Mrs. Charles F. Hunt of 537 West 149th Street. Her husband Dr. Hunt, is a physician to the Yankees.”

According to the paper, just as Baker connected:

“(S)omeone got up in his seat just ahead of Mrs. Hunt and she could not follow the course of the ball. The man apparently tried to catch it.

“Then as Mrs. Hunt sat still the ball flattened the left side of her head with a blow on the left temple.”

Despite being dizzy, the paper said Hunt continued watching the game, “pluckily refusing medical attention.”

Hunt also refused to be taken out of the stands, telling her husband:

“I feel so hysterical that if I try to go out, I’m afraid I’ll create a scene.”

After the Athletics won 3 to 2 in 11 innings, Hunt remained in her seat for another hour, and when she finally returned home, the paper said she spent the next 24 hours ill in bed, and “the bump” remained on her head:

“What became of the ball? Oh, yes. Mrs. Hunt didn’t get it. The moment it fell from her head to the floor, a youth grabbed it.”

Gehrig on the Greatest “Team man, 1937

Dan Daniel of The New York World Telegram did his part to add to the Babe Ruth/ Lou Gehrig feud in February of 1937—just days after Ruth questioned Gehrig’s consecutive game streak, calling it “One of the worst mistake a ballplayer could make.”

Daniel visited with Gehrig in his New Rochelle home, and asked readers if their was a “War between” the two.

He said he asked Gehrig to name the all-time greatest player; Gehrig responded

“Honus Wagner the flying Dutchman…I say Wagner because there was a marvelous player who went along doing a grand job without any thought of himself. He was the team man of all time.”

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Gehrig

In addition to his snub of Ruth, Gehrig talked about his “greatest thrill” and the best pitcher he ever faced:

“’The greatest thrill of my baseball career?’ Gehrig furnished the reply without a moment’s hesitation. ‘It came when I hit that home run off Carl Hubbell in the third inning of the fourth game of the World Series last October…You don’t hit against very many pitchers like Hubbell in a lifetime and you don’t hit very many homers off the Hubbells in such situations.’ The Iron Horse continued.

“’But the greatest hurler I have seen was not Carl. My vote goes to Lefty Grove. When that bird was powdering them in at the top of his form, he was about as terrible a proposition for a hitter as you could imagine, even in a wild nightmare.’”

Spending World Series Shares, 1915

24 Dec

Frank Menke, in his national syndicated reports from Philadelphia and Boston, polled the 1915 World Champion Boston Red Sox who received a winner’s share of $3,779.98 for each player, to find out how their windfall would be spent:

“Whatcha gonna do with it?

‘”Now that you asked,’ spoke up George Foster, a Boston pitching person, ‘I believe I will join J. Pierpont (Morgan) and some of my other fellow millionaires in making that loan to the allies.’

“’I’ll slip mine into an old rock,’ said catcher (Forest ‘Hick’) Cady.  ‘I don’t trust banks.  I knew a banker once who borrowed $10 from me.  He still owes in.’

“’Cady’s experience doesn’t alter my trust in bank,’ said Tris Speaker.  ‘I’ll drag this roll back to Texas with me and put it where I’ve got some more.”’

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Speaker

Dick Hoblitzel and Jack Barry both said they were buying cars.

“Duffy Lewis will use his $3,779.98 in the purchase of a few more orange groves in California, his home state.

“Harry Hooper, also a Californian, will do likewise.”

Menke said Hal Janvrin and Mike McNally “the substitute kid infielders” declined to answer.

“’I’ve been reading so much about how a guy with three thousand copecks can run it up to a million in the stock market.  I’m going to take a chance with an investment—and I may not.’ Said Babe Ruth, the southpaw flinger.”

Heinie Wagner, Ray Collins, and manager Bill Carrigan all said they were buying land; Wagner was purchasing real estate in the Bronx, while Collins and Carrigan were investing in farm land.

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Carrigan, right

“Vean Gregg, who was a plasterer before he became a pitcher, told about a prosperous plastering business somewhere out on the Pacific Coast he wanted to buy.”

Del Gainer, Pinch Thomas, Olaf Henricksen, Carl Mays, Everett Scott, and Ernie Shore all planned to bank their money.

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Babe Ruth and Ernie Shore

“And when we approached Dutch Leonard, the portside flinger, and the last Red Hosed person in the roundup.

“’How about you?’”

“’Well, I’m gonna spend part of it taking a few more boxing lessons.  Then, when I’m fully conversant with the art of self-defense I’m going out and bust the noses of about two dozen of these ‘sure thing birds’ who want me to invest my money in wild cat schemes.  After that I’ll stow the money in a bank and watch it grow.”’

Lost Advertisements: Designed by Babe Ruth

16 Nov

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“Here they are for you fellows,” a 1927 ad for “The Babe Ruth Home Run Specials” from Reach:

“At Last–every fellow who plays ball can have the kind of mitt or glove he’s always wanted.  Not small size, shoddy gloves.  Not the cheap-looking, cheap-wearing kids that go to pieces in a single season.  But Full-sized Big League gloves.”

The Babe Ruth Specials retailed from $3.50 to $5.00  The catcher’s mitt was $8.

“I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average”

24 Oct

Walter “Christy” Walsh was Babe Ruth’s agent and also operated the Christy Walsh Syndicate which employed several well known sportswriters, including Damon Runyon, Bozeman Bulger, and Ford Frick, to ghost write articles for Ruth and other players.

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Christy Walsh

In 1927, an article under Ruth’s byline appeared in several newspapers during the summer of 1927, as Ruth was in the process of hitting 60 home runs:

“Here’s a tip to hitters.

“Take it from one who knows.  There’s no percentage in going up there to the platter and swinging from your heels trying to park the ball over the fence.

“Home run hitting is fine and it gives you a real kick when you smack one, but 99 out of a hundred hitters ruin themselves when they try too hard.”

Ruth, or the Ruth surrogate, compared it to “pressing in golf.”

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Babe Ruth

And he said:

“The real hitter is the chap who steps up there with a short swing and plenty of wrist, and meets the ball.”

Don’t emulate him, he said:

“When you’re trying to improve your hitting take your tip from chaps like Eddie Collins, Joey Sewell, or Ty Cobb.  These fellows have real hitting form.”

Ruth said:

“I get paid for making home runs and hitting balls a long way.  So I have to stay up there swinging.  But if I didn’t, I’d change my form tomorrow.  I’d go up there flat footed like Eddie and Joey and I’d take a short swing instead of a long one.

“I wouldn’t make so many home runs but I bet I’ll add a hundred points to my batting average for the season.”

He concluded the lesson:

“Home runs are pretty things to watch and now and then they win ball games, but the real hitter is the chap who can step up there and get his two singles every game.  He’s the one to take as your example.”

“Baseball is a lot Faster now”

18 Oct

Bill Gleason was the shortstop for three of the four straight American Association champion St. Louis Browns team—he was with the 1885-1887 teams—and, apparently, very superstitious.  After his baseball career ended in 1891, the St. Louis native returned home and became a fire fighter.

Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t spend his later years complaining about how the game wasn’t as good as when he played.

In 1926, the captain of the city’s Engine Company Number 38, sat in the Sportsman’s Park press box for game three of the World Series, and spoke to a reporter from The Post-Dispatch:

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Bill Gleason Fire Captain

“’It’s a fast team, a fast team,’ Gleason repeated again and again as the Cardinals infield worked.  ‘And baseball is a lot faster now than it was when we played it back in the old days.’”

And Gleason was aware of how most of his contemporaries felt:

“’I’m not one of these old codgers who’d tell you there are no times like the old times.  These boys out there are faster than we were, I think, and the game’s gone a long way ahead.  And I wouldn’t like to say we had any players quite up to the big fellow out there,’ waving a hand toward ‘Babe’ Ruth who was emerging from the Yankee dugout.”

Gleason noted that while his three Browns teams “were champions of the world,” he said they were not as great as the current Cardinals:

“’This man (Jesse) Haines who pitched today is a wonder.  He had everything, speed, curves, and absolute control (Haines shut the Yankees out on five hits in a game delayed by rain for 30 minutes during the fourth inning)…Sometimes it seems to me that we don’t have the pitching now that we used to, but Haines certainly furnished it for us today.  He puts me in mind of old Tim Keefe of the New York team.  He was a great pitcher in my day.”

But Gleason was even more impressed with the Cardinals infield:

“’Then there’s that double play combination.  (Tommy) Thevenow to (Rogers) Hornsby to (Jim) Bottomley.  Thevenow is lightening fast, Hornsby’s play is as smooth as silk, and Bottomley is just a beauty.”

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Gleason, 1886

Gleason said Hornsby’s play at second reminded him of his Browns teammate Yank Robinson:

“’(He) handled himself a lot like Hornsby.  You didn’t realize how fast he was moving. He worked so easily.’”

Gleason said the Cardinals had better hitting than his Browns and said of outfielder Billy Southworth:

“’He’s like Curt Welch, the center fielder of the Browns.  Goes back on a fly ball and gets set for it just like old Curt did.  And (catcher Bob) O’Farrell is a lot like Doc Bushong of the Browns—steady and dependable.’”

Gleason also talked about how the 1926 incarnation of Sportsman’s Park differed from the first version which hosted the 1886 world’s championship against the Chicago White Stockings:

“’In those days,’ he said, ‘the grounds were laid out so that we batted from Grand Avenue, and what is now home plate was then left field. “

Gleason said the following season, when the Browns again played the White Stockings in a post series, that the decision to make the series a “winner take all” for the gate money was Albert G. Spalding’s idea:

“’(Browns owner) Chris von der Ahe (wanted to) split the gate.  (Spalding) said he would play only on the basis of winner take all and we played on that agreement.  The Browns won the series four games to two.  We won the last three games here, and I think it’s likely the Cardinals will do the same thing.”

His prognostication was off—the Cardinals dropped the next two games to the Yankees, but did come back to win the final two to take the World Series in seven games.

Gleason remained with the St. Louis fire department until his death at age 73 in 1932—there was general confusion about Gleason’s age at the time of his death, The Post-Dispatch said “Records vary to his age but he was about 70,” The St. Louis Star and Times and The Associated Press said he was 66.

The Post-Dispatch said he was recovering from an infection he got from stepping on a nail at a fire, when “he insisted on going down to the corner drug store.  On the way home he collapsed from the heat and never left his bed again.”

Things I Learned on the way to Looking Up Other Things #24

1 Aug

Pitching to Ruth

According to the International News Service, during a discussion before a game in 1919, Frank Baker was talking to his Yankees teammates about “the days when batters demanded the sort of delivery they could hit best.”

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Babe Ruth

The players agreed:

“If that rule were in force in the present day the outfielders would have to be mounted on motorcycles, and Muddy Ruel said that the playing field would have to be as big as the parade grounds at old Camp Pike, where he was at officers training camp.

Just imagine Babe Ruth coming up with the bases filled and a hit needed if he had the privilege of demanding a fastball waist high.  The question of how to pitch to him under such conditions was placed in open discussion.  Ping Bodie solved it.  ‘I’d get back on second base, throw the ball and then duck,’ said Ping.”

Negotiating with Murphy

When it was first rumored that Fred Mitchell would step down as president of the Chicago Cubs in the summer of 1919, there was speculation that Charles Webb Murphy might return to the club as president (Bill Veeck Sr. was ultimately given the position)

Hearing word of Murphy’s possible return, Johnny Evers told The Sporting News what it was like to negotiate a contract with Murphy after the team’s back to back World Series wins in 1907 and 1908:

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Charles Webb Murphy

“We had made lots of money for the Cubs and certainly expected owner Murphy to give us a big boost in salary.  I received my contract, gave it the once over and returned it to C.W. with the curt reply that I thought I deserved more money for my labors.

“It was not a big salary,  In fact, the sum mentioned was so small that if I were to tell you the amount it would shock you.  Mr. Murphy was shrewd enough to get around my request for a raise.  His reply was to the effect that I might deserve more money, but should be satisfied to work for the amount he mentioned in view of the fact that I had such wonderful stars to help me as Frank Chance on my left and Joe Tinker on my right.

“Joe Tinker also protested against the figures mentioned in his contract that year and the crafty Mr. Murphy’s reply to him was that he should be satisfied to play for almost anything since he was teamed up with such stars as (Harry) Steinfeldt on his right, Evers on his left and Frank Chance at first base.  There was no way to get around an argument like that, and when the season opened Tinker and I were playing at the original figures offered by chubby Charley.”

Arguing with Browning

The Louisville Courier-Journal recalled in 1908 an incident “When Pete Browning played with the Louisville club.”

Browning, said the paper, was “no prize beauty…still he was sensitive regarding his un-Apollo like appearance and would get angry in a moment if any allusion was made to his lack of pulchritude.”

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Pete Browning

During a game in Cincinnati, umpire John Gaffney called Browning out on strikes.

 “The big fellow rushed up the umpire roaring like a toreador stuck bull.  But John Gaffney was afraid of no living man, and he ruled the field with a rod of iron, but he was also a reasonable man and would explain his decisions.  However, Pete would listen to no explanations.  Finally, Gaffney became angry, and walking up to Browning, he shook his finger in his face and said:

“’I would like to have a photograph of your face, Browning.’

“’And for why,’ shot back Pete, who was taken wholly by surprise, and began to color up when allusion was made to his face.

“’Why, I have a chicken farm back home,’ said Gaffney, ‘and I would like to put your picture in the coop so as to frighten eggs out of the hens.’”

Lost Pictures–1924 House of David

26 Apr

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A 1924 promotional photo of the House of David baseball team, from the Israelite House of David, the Adventist sect based in Benton Harbor, Michigan.  The photo was distributed to Midwest newspapers during the barnstorming team’s tour that season.

Promotional materials promised, “Some wonderful baseball players are on the House of David team,” including Jess Tally, “The bearded Babe Ruth.”  And “Cookie Hannaford the phenomenal first sacker.  “The team claimed Tally had hit 34 home runs in 132 games in 1923, and 11 through the team’s first 31 games of 1924.

 

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Tally

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Hannaford

The team always claimed that several members of the club, “Rejected major league jobs, refusing to clip their whiskers.”

Dick Jess, who had managed Babe Ruth’s 1921 barnstorming tour, was the promoter for the House of David tour, and described the team as:

“Bewhiskered, barberless, shaveless baseballists, and foes of the barber trust.”